Jimmy Page’s Five Best Guitar Solos with The Yardbirds

June 14th, 2016


By Damian Fanelli | Photo: Jorgen Angel/Getty Images

Before he wielded the hammer of the gods—and a Les Paul—as a member of mighty Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page was a Telecaster-wielding Yardbird.

Today we turn our attention to Page’s best guitar work with his former band.

Fortunately, we don’t have very far to look, since Page recorded only one album with the band—1967’s Little Games—plus a few non-album singles and B-sides, all of which have wound up on deluxe versions of Little Games over the decades.

While the band’s Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck eras enjoyed decent chart success—from “For Your Love” to “Heart Full of Soul” to “Shapes of Things”—its Page-fronted version managed to fly under the radar until imploding in 1968. (Even “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago,” which featured Beck and Page, only reached Number 30.)

Check out our five choices for Page’s best guitar work as a Yardbird. This list was compiled with the input of Brad Tolinski, author of Light & Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page. If you’re interested in Page’s Yardbirds days—not to mention his Led Zeppelin days—you might want to check out the book, which is available now at our online store.

P.S.: I’d like to award an “honorable mention” to a lesser-known Yardbirds track from 1968 called “Avron Knows,” which features Page playing a Telecaster with a simply beautiful fuzz tone. The recording, which is incomplete (And I don’t think Page and the boys will be gathering to finish it anytime soon), wasn’t released until a few years ago on the Cumular Limit album.

On that note, enjoy!

“Think About It,” B-side of “Goodnight Sweet Josephine”

If the guitar solo on “Think About It” sounds familiar, that’s because Page borrowed and re-purposed it a year later when recording “Dazed and Confused” with Led Zeppelin. The guitar solo makes this the Yardbirds’ most Zeppelin-like track, and it’s easily the most shred-centric solo in the band’s catalog. Be sure to check out Aerosmith’s cover of this tune, which can be found on their Night in the Ruts album.

“Happenings Ten Years Time Ago,” A-side of a 1966 single

“Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” was the first Yardbirds single to feature Page, who—this time around—shares the guitar spotlight with Beck. There are only three Beck/Page-era Yardbirds recordings—”Happenings,” “Psycho Daisies” and “Stroll On.” “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” is a mini-masterpiece, what Tolinski calls “a tour de force of guitar invention and orchestration … a moody slice of psychedelia with nightmarish overtones.” That’s John Paul Jones on bass, by the way. You can hear Beck’s voice during the mid-song ranty interlude.

“White Summer,” from Little Games

This acoustic instrumental track is the precursor to Led Zeppelin’s “Black Mountain Side,” and Page often performed the two songs as a medley during early Led Zeppelin tours. It’s interesting to note that during the Yardbirds’ final days as a touring band, Page performed this song with an electric guitar, as heard on Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page. Said Page: “I used a special tuning for [the song]; the low string down to D, then A, D, G, A and D. It’s like a modal tuning, a sitar tuning, in fact.”

“Smile On Me,” from Little Games

“Smile On Me” is the closest the Page-era Yardbirds got to straight-ahead (and spaced-out) blues.

“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor,” from Little Games

From Light & Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page:

BRAD TOLINSKI: Those ringing guitar parts and suspended chords on “Tinker, Tailor” are almost like a precursor to “The Song Remains the Same.”

JIMMY PAGE: Well, it could be, except I’ve got two or three different demo versions, each with different guitar approaches. What is somewhat funny is I presented [producer] Mickie [Most] with the poppiest version. Here I am talking about shooting ourselves in the foot by doing pop stuff, but I really sort of enabled the situation by coming up with parts that were intentionally quite catchy. I guess I still had that instinct from doing sessions for all those years!”

Note that Page is playing guitar with a violin bow during the solo, a sound that would turn up on the first Led Zeppelin album.

“Avron Knows,” from Cumular Limit

As mentioned above, here’s the incomplete “Avron Knows.” Check out Page’s fuzzed-out Tele tone!

  • Lee Rosenblum

    Page brought his “A” game back then when he took over the reigns from Beck. Those licks have been copied by everyone , both pro and aspiring, and clearly show his stylistic growth that culminated in Led Zep. I remember bringing home “little games” and listening to the jaw dropping tone of his tele. It’s worth mentioning that if you can find it ,,,”Live Yardbirds featuring Jimmy Page” is quintessential listening…Cheers!!!!

  • Dave Goessling

    Isn’t it worth mentioning that Black Mountainside / White Summer is pretty much a direct, unattributed rip from Davey Graham’s version of She Moves Through The Fair? So Page to not give credit where credit is due.

    Also, Tinker Tailor has always sounded very Who-ish to me – right down to the drumming.